Background: The presence of distracting stimuli during eating increases the meal size and could thereby contribute to overeating and obesity. However, the effects of within-meal distraction on later food intake are less clear.
Objective: We sought to test the hypothesis that distraction inhibits memory encoding for a meal, which, in turn, increases later food intake.
Design: The current study assessed the effects of playing solitaire (a computerized card-sorting game) during a fixed lunch, which was eaten at a fixed rate, on memory for lunch and food intake in a taste test 30 min later. A between-subjects design was used with 44 participants. Participants in the no-distraction group ate the same lunch in the absence of any distracting stimuli.
Results: Distracted individuals were less full after lunch, and they ate significantly more biscuits in the taste test than did nondistracted participants (mean intake: 52.1 compared with 27.1 g; P = 0.017). Furthermore, serial-order memory for the presentation of the 9 lunch items was less accurate in participants who had been distracted during lunch.
Conclusions: These findings provide further evidence that distraction during one meal has the capacity to influence subsequent eating. They may also help to explain the well-documented association between sedentary screen-time activities and overweight.